Professionals in many industries are expected to upgrade and refine their skills and knowledge in order to move up the corporate ladder.
Lisa Yip, director, accountancy division, FTC Kaplan, is at the forefront of this development, helping to further educate accounting professionals. "We run training that leads to professional qualifications," she explains. "Some are at international levels."
Ms Yip started out a long way from the accounting field. She graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a degree in tourism management, had formative training as a skating instructor and was a qualified lifeguard. After university, however, she joined FTC Kaplan and began her career as a business administrator. Rather than seeing this as contradictory to her academic background, Ms Yip believes it is complementary. "I wanted a job that would deal with people and help them grow and succeed," she says.
After three years at FTC Kaplan, Ms Yip was sponsored for an MBA programme at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, giving her first-hand experience of studying for a professional qualification. She returned from her studies, became manager and then director of the company.
"You have to be able to immediately identify if something is feasible"
The bulk of Ms Yip's day is spent communicating. She begins her day by checking student enrolment numbers and thinking of strategies to meet and even exceed targets. "I constantly think about what we can do better in terms of marketing. A big part of this is making information clear and accessible to prospective students because we need to make sure that they understand how our training can meet their objectives," she says.
"I attend internal meetings to review target and performance data, and have regular dialogues with business administrators, sales consultants and the front-desk sales staff. This way I can get a direct measure of how well we are doing," Ms Yip notes. She meets regularly with the company's CEO and other senior management, to discuss new ideas and future planning. She also works closely with the company's local counterparts, and overseas ones in Singapore, Australia and Shanghai.
She also spends time liaising with clients and there are always operational and ad-hoc issues with tutors and students to deal with. A part of her day is even spent monitoring competitors in the industry, checking out what is new, and anything worth investigating further.
"People in this business need strong communication skills in Cantonese and English," she says, adding that another requirement is sound analytical ability. "You have to be able to immediately identify if something is feasible or not; and if it is, you must be able to implement it quickly." On top of this, business skills are also essential. "You need basic understanding of how to run a business and you must be equipped with marketing know-how and knowledge about this specific marketplace," Ms Yip explains.
One of the great things about Ms Yip's job is that she is able to take ownership. "I am given the autonomy to do many things, including hiring my own staff," she says. "This way I know that they are passionate about what they do and it makes the job so much better."
Ms Yip advises those wanting to enter the field to first of all gain accounting exposure with a larger firm. In addition to the required qualities and skills, Ms Yip believes that graduates aspiring to succeed in the industry should have persistence and determination. "Whatever you do, you need to work hard," she continues. "Our programmes run in the evening and my day normally concludes around 7pm. But up until last year I still taught business management and my days often stretched to 12 hours with additional hours required at home for course preparation."
Despite this, Ms Yip says the reward is job satisfaction. "Helping professionals get more qualifications is actually very gratifying," she says. "We provide a service to the professional community and I like that. I like to take ideas and implement them and I really love working as part of a team to make things better. There is a real sense of accomplishment and value here."